Vote Yes on Amendment 2

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2006

To the Editor:

Amendment 2 on the November 7 ballot provides an opportunity for the citizens of Alabama to establish a benchmark for equitable funding for Alabama’s public schools. This amendment requires all school districts to pay the barest of minimums to educate children. One hundred and one systems currently meet this minimum.

Passage of this amendment only affects thirty school systems.

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In 1995, the Alabama Legislature passed legislation that equitably distributed state funds to local school systems.

This legislation is known as The Foundation Program. In order to participate in the program and receive their equitable share of funds, school systems had to provide a match in local funds that was also equitable.

The standard set was 10 mills of property tax. If a system didn’t have 10 mills in property tax, the difference could be made up with sales taxes or other local taxes.

Eleven years after passage of this landmark legislation, thirty school systems still do not have 10 mills in property tax for education and are still making up the difference with local taxes.

Over that period of time, property values have increased and making up the corresponding decrease in local tax revenue has created an undue burden on local school systems.

These 30 systems do not yet receive 10 mills of property tax: Andalusia City, Arab City, Athens City, Autauga County, Barbour County, Bibb County, Blount County, Chilton County, Conecuh County, Covington County, Crenshaw County, Cullman County, Dale County, Daleville City, Dothan City, Elmore County, Fayette County, Hale County, Houston County, Jackson County, Lamar County, Lawrence County, Limestone County, Linden City, Marengo County, Marion County, Montgomery County, Pike County, Tuscaloosa County and Walker County.

All of the 30 systems affected have property taxes of at least 7 mills earmarked for education. At the most, property worth $100,000 would be taxed an additional $30 per year or 8 cents per day. In many cases, homestead exemptions make this amount even less.

Alabama’s property tax rate is the lowest in the country.

A recently published study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) reports that Mississippi has surpassed Alabama in property taxes for education. In 2006, the lowest property tax rate for education was 22.45 mills.

Eighty percent of school systems in Alabama are below the 22.45 minimum required in Mississippi.

Property taxes are predictable and are not subject to sudden shifts in the economy.

Sales taxes are unpredictable and extremely susceptible to economic shifts. Local funds generated from local taxes should be available to use in the local school system for local needs. If passed, Amendment 2 will allow this to happen.

For those 30 systems that currently do not have 10 mills of property tax, passage of Amendment 2 will help them reach equity funding.

The other 101 school systems and their communities will not be affected.

Their property taxes will not change.

By voting Yes on Amendment 2, you will help these 30 systems reach the benchmark for equity funding.

It is the right thing to do.

Lisa A Woodard

Research and Legislative director

School Superintendents of Alabama